Both the 141,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina (which recently won the 2011 Broad Prize for Urban Education) and the 55,000-student Plano Independent School District in Texas are bolstering their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education through the help of technology company Texas Instruments.
Middle school students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district have seen significant gains in math achievement that officials in the school system attribute to the Texas Instrument's MathForward program. Since the program was implemented in the 2008-09 school year, 8th grade math scores have jumped 20 percentage points from 65 percent of students performing on grade level to 85 percent of students performing on grade level in 2010-11.
The program, which places a heavy emphasis on teacher professional development and incorporates technology tools to help teachers see where each student is during a lesson, has also helped increase teacher retention in math, said Cindy Moss, the STEM director for the district.
The program has since expanded to 6th and 7th graders, as well as Algebra I classes in high school. Part of the program's success is the support that teachers receive, said Steven Bailey, the director of the MathForward program at Texas Instruments. Each school has a coach that comes in during certain days of the week to help teachers structure math lessons, as well as step in with technical support when needed. That support was crucial to getting teachers on board with the program, said Moss, from Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
In the Plano school district in Texas, Texas Instruments has agreed to donate $5 million toward a new high school in the district that will focus on project-based learning and STEM education. The school, which is expected to open in 2013 with 9th and 10th graders, will include curriculum created and adapted by Plano ISD and Texas Instruments, as well as technology from the company.